“Letters from the New York Otaku”
By David Cabrera
My Name is David Cabrera, and I’m the Foreigner Who’s Going to Make Friends with All the Animeanime Readers!
Nice to meet you all! I’m a longtime fan of anime and manga, and I’m also a lifelong New Yorker. It’s not so rare a combination as you might think! I’ve been writing about otaku-related affairs (both for fun and professionally) for a long time as well, and that’s landed me here. From now on, I’m going to talk to you every weekday about whatever I think might be of interest in the world of the American anime fan.
Since I’m introducing myself, let’s talk about one of my formative moments as a fan of anime: not my first, but a big one that really pushed me towards anime as a passion and a hobby.
As a young child, my Dad and I used to stay up late on the weekends watching late-night TV: slasher movies, stuff by Troma, weird comedy, shows that I didn’t realize would help shape my tastes years later.
One such night, I stumbled across the final scene of the 1991 film Robot Carnival, the one after the credits. A working man finds a mysterious chrome orb laying out in the desert, and that night he brings the strange object to his children in their rickety shack of a home. As if in response to the wondering, expectant gaze of the children, the machine pops open, revealing that it is in fact a music box on tank treads. A robot ballerina twirls across the tiny stage as a lullaby plays. Beams of light fly up from the machine, and the spinning ballerina is herself shot up into the air. She drifts back down slowly on her floofy dress, there is another flash of light and suddenly… the whole house explodes. And that’s the end of the movie.
I was nine years old. That image was absolutely burned into my mind. It was beautiful and monstrous and unlike any cartoon I’d ever seen in my life. From that day forward I was a fan, sneaking to watch “Saturday Morning Anime” on the Sci-Fi Channel– violent stuff like Akira, Vampire Hunter D, Tank Police, with the more grisly scenes cut out for TV– whenever my parents weren’t watching. There were a lot of other things that got me here, like Voltron (Go-Lion) when I was a toddler, but that Robot Carnival scene changed me into someone who was, at my young age and with no money to buy it, actively seeking out Japanese animation. A few years down the line I would be formally inducted into the cult of the American otaku… and as you can see, I haven’t left. Lucky I didn’t, because we’ll have quite a lot to talk about. Look forward to it!